Burns Scalds QLD Complaints - Queensland Medical Rights Solicitors

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If you think that you have received inadequate or negligent medical treatment of burns or scalds, our solicitors will be able to assist you in making a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) in Queensland. Our QLD based solicitors deal with health care complaints on a ‘pro bono’ basis and will not make any charge to you for advice on how to make a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman. A complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman in QLD is not a medical negligence compensation claim and will not result in the payment of compensation but may assist you in further understanding what went wrong and why you were treated in the way that has caused you concern. There are a number of possible outcomes and the Queensland Office of the Health Ombudsman may be able to obtain a more full explanation of the circumstances of any alleged negligence or may give you more details about the treatment that you have received.

Severe Burns


A burn is a flesh injury that involves skin and soft tissue. It can be caused by a thermal injury (heat), hot liquids (scalds), electricity, friction, radiation or chemicals. Severe burns usually are third degree burns involving the full thickness of skin and some soft tissue beneath it. It can also be considered a severe burn if it involves first and/or second degree burns but involve a large area of the body. Second degree burns involve blisters and first degree burns involve only redness and damage to the superficial layers of the skin. A fourth degree burn involves injury to muscle, fat, or bone along with overlying skin.

People with severe burns often need to be treated at burn centers where they can receive maximum care, including skin grafting and proper pain control and infection relief. IV fluids are often necessary in severe burns due to the inflammatory response of these types of burns.

Statistically, in Australia, about 1 million people seek treatment for burns or scalds and 30,000 people die from their injury— about 4 percent of those admitted to a burn and scald unit. Young people heal best from their injuries when compared to older people.

Burns and scalds have been treated since prehistory. Cave paintings from 3500 years ago depict the management of burns and ancient Egyptian records show that burn management involved dressings impregnated with the breast milk of mothers who had boy babies. In 1500 BCE, it was described to treat burns with honey and resin salve. Tea leaves were used by the ancient Chinese, while Hippocrates described treating burns with vinegar and pig fat. Guillaume Dupuytren created six different burn categories in 1832.

Modern burn and scald care began in the late 1800s and early 1900s and expanded in the era of WWI. It was then that standards were developed for the cleansing and disinfecting of wounds with sodium hypochlorite. This reduced infection and the mortality from severe burns. Skin grafting was developed in the 1940a, which furthered the cause of burn care.

Signs and symptoms of severe burns include the presence of a pressure or mild discomfort in third degree burns. The pain fibers have been killed off by the burn and there is not the extreme pain seen in second degree burns. There is often an eschar, which represents the blackened and leathery dead skin. The full thickness burn may be insensitive to puncturing or to light touch. If this was a burn secondary to a fire, there may be secondary hoarseness of voice, shortness of breath, stridor, or actual wheezing from bronchospasm. When the wound heals, almost 90 percent of victims have itching upon healing of the wound. There may be emotional sequelae following a severe burn because of the disfiguring nature of the injury.

Burns are caused by a variety of incidents. These include fire, exposure to a hot object, chemical, radiation burns, and electrical burns. Sixty nine percent happen at home or at work (9 percent); most are accidental. On the other hand, 2 percent are secondary to an assault and 1-2 percent are a suicidal act. Only about 6 percent result in an inhalation injury as well as an injury to the skin.

Thermal Burns


Most thermal burns are caused by fire and by hot liquids. Sometimes house fires result in burns; it is usually secondary to smoking, the use of heating devices and by firefighters trying to fight a fire. Scalding can be secondary to liquid or hot gases. These are more common in children under the age of five. Children also come in contact with hot objects quite frequently (20-30 percent of childrens burns). Fireworks are another cause of thermal burns in holiday seasons.

Chemical Burns


Chemical burns represent up to 11 percent of all burns but cause up to 30 percent of all burn deaths. Usually burns are caused by a strong base (55 percent) or a strong acid (26 percent). Deaths from these injuries usually are secondary to ingestion of the substance. Common substances are sodium hydroxide in oven cleaner, sodium hypochlorite in bleach, and sulfuric acid found in toilet bowl cleaners. Hydrofluoric acid is used in glass etching and can cause very deep wounds that aren’t noticed right away. Formic acid destroys many red blood cells.

Electrical Burns


These are usually high voltage injuries greater than 1000 volts of electricity but they can be lower voltage injuries or injuries from a flash burn, secondary to an electric arc. Most burns happen in children who come in contact with electrical cords or electrical outlets. Lightning can also cause electrical burns in people who are outside in the rain while doing sporting events. About ten percent of lightning injuries are fatal.

Electrical injuries have the propensity to cause fractures or dislocations secondary to muscle contractions or to blunt force trauma. In electrical injuries, much of the damage can be on the inside of the person so just looking at the skin can severely underestimate the degree of injury. Electrical exposure can cause heart arrhythmias or cardiac arrest.

Radiation Burns


Radiation burns can come from overexposure to tanning beds, arc welders, or ionizing radiation, such as is seen in x-rays, radioactive fallout, or radiation therapy. Exposure to 30 Gy of ionizing radiation can cause necrosis of skin, which can be fatal if large areas of skin are involved. The symptoms of ionizing radiation exposure sometimes don’t show up for days to weeks at a time. Despite the nature of ionizing radiation exposure, burns from this type of injury are treated just like other burns. Microwave burns can burn the skin in as little as 2 minutes of exposure. Fortunately, this type of injury is very rare.

Non-Accidental Burns

Some burns are due to an assault. This represents 3-11 percent of hospitalised burns. Some are secondary to child abuse; others are from spousal abuse, personal disputes, business disputes or elder abuse. Immersion in hot water is often a case of child abuse and has a classic appearance.

Burns secondary to domestic violence are more common in other cultures, such as India and Pakistan. They are often done by the husband’s family to the bride if the dowry is believed to be inadequate.

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